The fifth floor of the cafeteria at Cato\u2019s Israeli office transformed last Thursday morning into a celebration of innovation, coding, and food. Our 2018 Hackathon was kicking off with a sumptuous breakfast buffet decorating the tables, and flags of the 10 project teams dotting the floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out onto southern Tel Aviv.\nHackathons are usually meant for folks who know something about, well, hacking code. But the dynamic duo who conceived and ran the event \u2013 Eyal, our director of product management, and Jordana, Cato\u2019s human resources manager \u2013 poked, prodded, and dare I say implored, every employee to join the festivities \u2013 and I do mean everyone. The call to sign up for Cato\u2019s Hackathon wasn\u2019t just limited those who could program in C but even employees who could spell with a C \u2013 all were encouraged to sign up.\u00a0 Thankfully singing in C wasn't a requirement.\nBeing the courageous marketer that I am, I answered that call, journeying from my comfortable 4th floor office up into the wily world of engineering and development. And as I stood there, munching my way through a quiche and mini-sandwich the great existential question that any marketing guy should ask himself at a Hackathon once again crossed my mind:\nJust what the heck was I doing here?\nClearly, I wasn\u2019t the only one. \u201cGood to have you, Dave.\u201d I turned and there was our CTO, Gur Shatz walking past. \u201cI am curious to see how you\u2019re going to contribute,\u201d he said with a slight smile on his lips.\nThe big question: how to help?\nCato Cloud sits on an enormous data warehouse of networking and security information. One way to tap that information is through our recently announced Cato Threat Hunting System (CTHS), but there are millions \u2014 well, at least 10 \u2014 other ways. Some team were going to develop new kinds of security services, others focused on creating new tools, and still others looked at new kind of platforms for accessing the Cato Cloud. As an old-time networking hand and Marvel fan, I signed up to develop \u201cHeimdall\u201d, a new kind of tool for measuring end-to-end latency, with team Uselesses (don\u2019t ask). \u00a0\nExpecting to help the team code wasn\u2019t realistic, that much I knew. The last time I programmed punch-cards were just leaving this world, and objects were something you touched. I could write world class functions in Fortran or Pascal, if you insist, but somehow, I didn\u2019t think that was going to help very much.\nIt\u2019s not that I\u2019m technically clueless, mind you. I have spent 20+ years studying, analyzing and evaluating networking technologies in very sick detail. Marketing people usually end-up calling me an engineer, which is kind of funny because engineers usually call me a marketing person. I guess that makes me something of a technical marketing mashup \u2014 hence my evangelism title.\nAll of which meant I was geeky enough to be thrilled to create a better network measurement tool, but uncertain exactly how to help. If networking expertise, ideation, positioning, or pitching were needed by team Uselesses, I\u2019d be the man. If not, coffee making was a possibility. Never having been at a Hackathon, though, it was hard to know which of those skills would be required.\nNo turning back\nYeah, I thought about bowing out gracefully. I slacked Eyal about how he saw us marketing types fitting in. \u201c\u2018I will be mentoring and hosting. If you feel like contributing - you are seriously welcomed to do it anyway you can,\u201d he Slacked back.\u00a0 No daylight there. I checked with Vadim, the lead on team Useless, about if there were issues with me joining (hint, hint). \u201cIt\u2019s fine,\u201d he said, \u201cHappy to have you with us.\u201d No luck.\nSo, I gave up and joined. After all, how bad could it be. I wasn\u2019t going to be the only non-developer or engineer there, right? Nice try.\u00a0 As it turns out, no other sales (sales engineering aside), marketing, or finance person joined in the festivities.\nWhich brings us back to Gur. I smiled, mumbled something, and then went off to join Vadim, Koby and Dudi \u2014 DevOps team extraordinaire \u2014 to be tucked away in a small, glass-lined conference room with a view of the Mediterranean and 12 hours to build a cloud measurement powerhouse.\nBuilding Heimdall\nWhen I got in the guys had already white-boarded what they were doing and had turned to their laptops to start building.\u00a0 \u201cWe\u2019ve already built a skeleton on AWS to hold our code,\u201d explained Koby.\n\u201cSkeleton. Is that like an outline?\u201d I asked. Clearly, I was out of my element.\u00a0 But I was here for the next 10 hours and there were just so many jokes I could crack and times I could offer to get folks coffee.\nThe guys had spent time thinking about Heimdall and I needed to catch up. Like any good marketing guy, I started questions:\n\u201cWhy are we building this tool?\u201d\n\u201cIt\u2019s going to help prospects determine their end-to-end latency with Cato,\u201d replied Vadim.\n\u201cCan\u2019t we do that today by having them ping our PoPs?\u201d\n\u201cWe can, but you need to know which PoPs to ping and that\u2019s not always obvious.\u201d\nThe software in Cato Sockets, our SD-WAN appliances, automatically identifies and connects to the optimum PoP. But obviously enterprises evaluating Cato didn\u2019t have that software and the optimum PoP wasn\u2019t always obvious. A myriad of factors, such as Internet routing and the way underseas cables run, meant that the physically closest PoP may not be the one with the least latency. With more than 40 PoPs today around the globe, the question comes up pretty frequently \u2014 a problem with having the world\u2019s largest independent backbone.\nWe had other ways of determining end-to-end latency before the Hackathon, of course, which made me even more curious as to why we were building Heimdall. I asked, and kept on asking questions, and after about 20 minutes of being my annoying self \u2014 and Vadim, Koby, and Dudi being patient with me \u2014 we pulled out all the ways this little project was going to change Cato, networking, and the fate of humanity.\nAs the day progressed, team Uselesses started flushing out the features of Heimdall. Originally, we were tasked with identifying last-mile latency, but Dave, the Networking Nerd, knew that last-mile latency is small fraction of overall latency on global connections. Last-mile packet loss and jitter, on the other hand, are very important. I suggested we include those metrics in the product.\nMetrics are nice, but without context they mean little. Dave suggested we find a way to add context and out of that conversation, came the results for optimum and direct paths across Cato Cloud \u2013 not necessarily the same thing. We also agreed to include end-to-end Internet measurements, but that would take a bit more time than we had at the Hackathon.\nThe conversation turned to exactly how to represent the data. We all had ideas, I had many. Dudi, our guy with the most front-end experience, was, shall we say, just a tad busy working with Koby on connecting the core components of Heimdall. Eventually he asked me to mock something up and that\u2019s how the Marketing Guy became the UI Guy.\nAnd so, the day went on. Drinks were served. Jokes were made. We each contributed our part of Heimdall. Koby and Dudi got the components connected. Vadim finished up on the network measurements and Dave? He mocked up the UI and finished the PowerPoint.\nTime to pitch\nTime was up, and we filed in at 10:30pm to share our very cool sh*t. Team after team went up showing off what they had developed. Query tools that hadn\u2019t existed a day before were suddenly workable. Deep analytics made simple by new kinds of visuals shown on the screen. Hardware platforms non-existent before we started were operational. Frankly, I was amazed at what could be created in such a brief period of time.\nEventually, our time came, and yours truly got up to do his marketing best. This was far more than a tool for measuring latency, I explained. This tool was going to shorten sales cycle, generate new leads, and improve Cato operations. We killed it on the PowerPoint \u2014 no bullets, axed the 10-point type, and nailed the bottom-line benefits for Cato.\u00a0 And by far the most brilliant thing I said was\u2026 \u201cNow let me hand it over to the real brains behind this project \u2014 Vadim, Dudi, and Koby \u2014 who\u2019ll demo this tool.\u201d\u00a0 Vadim did the heavy lifting (like pressing a button on keyboard) and voila! Our tool identified the best PoP for both source and destination addresses, and the end-to-end statistics for direct and optimized paths across Cato Cloud.\nIn the end, the marketing guy did help the team Uselesses. Besides clarifying networking concepts for some of my more software-oriented compatriots, my efforts led to us tracking several metrics I think any networking-minded pro would want to know. I identified what we should show, and developed the interface for how we\u2019d show it with enough clarity that a UX person could ultimately make it presentable. And, of course, I drew out Heimdall\u2019s applicability to the rest of Cato that led to final pitch, and the presentation.\nAnd the winner is\nThe teams finished up and the judges retreated for deliberations. Meanwhile, Eyal treated us to hysterical music videos of us from JibJab.\nAfter 30 minutes or so, the judges filed back in. \u201cFor second place, we picked Heimdall from team Uselesses,\u201d said Ofir Agassi, our director of product marketing, \u201cThe project was well implemented, and we liked Heimdall\u2019s \u2018broad applicability\u2019 to all aspect of Cato.\u201d\nCa-chang. Our core message gets cited as the reason for the award. Not bad. And who said marketers can\u2019t contribute to a Hackathon?